Search “Motherhood” in the Parenting section of Amazon.ca and you’ll get 843 results. Most of these titles are what you’d expect them to be. Many are about lessons, missions, and the life-changing experiences of motherhood. Some others pertain to single motherhood, preemie babies, and adoption. Nothing surprising there. It seems the self-proclaimed “hot mess” Vicki Murphy might have her finger on something many women have been waiting for. In MotherFumbler, Murphy’s debut collection of blog posts that have made their way to paper, she tells it like it is. “It” could be your kid’s crap, your dirty laundry, your turbulent emotions, your “broken” vagina, your leaky boobs, your insert-your-own-adjective-here experience. She puts everything out there–all the gross and glorious truths that make up her motherhood story. She rants and roars about what, I think, many women would like to yell about: the good, the bad, and the amazing trials and triumphs of squeezing one out.
With a refreshing, unignorable voice Murphy tells stories of motherhood in a brand new way, a way that excludes censorship, romance, and guilt, and promotes honesty, sisterhood, and understanding.
What has your mom experience been like compared to your pre-Turbo Ginger expectations?
It is nothing like I expected. Because it couldn’t possibly have been. You have nine months to think about it, so you start inventing this story in your mind; you start having this relationship with this little person you imagine in your crazy pregnant head. And it is never ever what you envision. How can it be? This is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You know the baby comes out of your vagina, but until that happens you can’t possibly fathom what that feels like. You know breastfeeding means exactly how it sounds: feeding your baby with your breasticles. But when they put that gooey baby on your chest and he immediately starts searching for your nipple, it really blows your mind. You know he is going to cry, all babies cry, but you couldn’t have imagined this relentless, inconsolable shriek that comes out of that tiny body. And this child you end up with is nothing like that child from your head. Now at age four, I find myself looking at Max, thinking WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? I mean that affectionately. When I was pregnant, I think I pictured my child to be some small version of me, or some mini replica of his father. But he is not me. He is not his dad. He is wholly himself. And yet we made him. I got him here. It is a complete mind trip, every single day.
In the book you mention different kinds of criticism you’ve received in the past. What are some of the doozies that come to mind? And some that were really supportive or positive?
When I published my first article on the Huffington Post, “To Breed or Not to Breed: Confessions of a Broken Vagina” (I know, nothing like starting off with a bang), I got my first true taste of Internet trollism. Up until then, I was blogging for about 700-800 people, largely folks who knew me or knew of me somehow, mostly in Newfoundland, or just beyond the province in the Maritimes, Ontario, etc. Now suddenly I had a much larger audience and getting comments from all over, from all kinds of people. Sanctimommies, religious fanatics, nutjobs, meanies, etc. One woman said I should have my uterus removed, clearly missing the humour in my article. The HuffPolice removed her comment. It is truly amazing when people just don’t get it. I’m not a journalist, people; I’m a joker. Gawd. The majority of comments are always positive though. People, in general, are smart, funny, and kind.
One time I saw a woman jogging while pushing a stroller that had a dog on a leash tied to it, and she was on her cell phone in mid-conversation. What’s your take on the Supermom syndrome?
As much as I probably roll my eyes at so-called Supermoms sometimes…YOU GO GIRL. I hate that we have to compromise one thing for another. If you want to put everything else on hold to be a mom and you’re content with that, then great. But if you don’t want to, or you simply can’t, then go ahead and do it all the best you can. I am not one single thing. I’m a mom, a writer, a blogger, a wife. I’ve been a writer/creative director at m5 for over 13 years, and advertising is no nine to five gig I assure you. I mean obviously my family comes first, but I don’t want to give up the other stuff that makes me who I am, that makes me the mom I am for Max. This all comes with a lot of chaos and I want to pull my hair out pretty much every day. But I don’t see another way to do things, so I’m hanging on for dear life and rolling with the punches toward something resembling happiness. So yeah, that woman with the stroller and the dog and the cell phone…. People will judge her, think maybe she should chill the fuck out and put the phone away and focus on the kid. But it’s not always that easy. She could be on the phone trying to cure cancer for all we know.
Some of my friends like hearing realistic stories of birth and motherhood, others prefer to keep it rosy, and find realism to be too negative. Your columns aside, what are the conversations like with your friends on motherhood, poop, vaginas, etc.?
The majority of mothers I talk to are a lot like me. They just don’t go around shouting it out like I do. Sometimes I just need to start the conversation and then they heave it out of them, relieved that someone finally brought it up, removed the gag order. The thing I keep trying to make people understand though: talking about things honestly – the yucky stuff, the painful stuff, the stuff that paints your kid as a little asshole – it may seem negative on the surface, but the truth shall set you free. Bottling it all up and sugarcoating everything…THAT is negative to me, because it’s not real. It’s bullshit. When we all share our stories, however ugly, we find common ground and relief in knowing we are not alone. And that, at the end of the day, is a good thing.
Does your mom ever look at you and say, “welcome to my world”? And what advice or in what ways does she help you navigate the everyday?
My mom’s motherhood experience was very different than mine. She doesn’t recall anything terribly difficult about it. Or maybe time has just softened the edges for her. When I was dreading childbirth, I said I hoped for a c-section and my mom said, “Oh don’t be a wimp.” But what happened to me down there was just not right, missus. Maybe Mom had a giant vagina and I just walked right out, I dunno. Likewise, when I tell her I’m too busy to clean my house, she likes to remind me how she managed to work and parent two children and still keep a tidy home. I could list the number of ways her life was different than mine but this paragraph is already looking rather chunky. So, to answer your question, the best ways my mom, or anyone really, can help me navigate the everyday is to realize my life, my motherhood experience, is inevitably unique from everybody else’s. Sometimes the best advice is to just listen.
How does one achieve “hot mess” status? Step-by-step instructions preferred.
Urban Dictionary has a bunch of definitions for a “hot mess”, but I personally define it as someone who appears to have their shit together, but who is actually a total fucking state. That’s me. Let’s face it, I’m at least half mental. My house is small and filthy. I’m terrible with money. I’m constantly questioning everything. I’m impatient. I’m easily bored. I bite my nails. I can’t cook. I don’t believe in god. BUT, on the surface, I am a friendly, funny, clean, successful, decent-looking lady. I am also very open and honest, so I can tell you right now: IT IS ALL A BIG FAT LIE.
How do you make time for writing?
I have no idea. I need to write. It’s therapy for my twisted soul. So I make the time. I guess I write instead of doing other things people do like clean, cook, exercise, watch TV, spend time with people, etc. I am a writer in advertising by trade, writing for clients every day, so it follows that in my spare time I like to write a little bit for myself. It keeps me sane and that is good for everyone.
What were some challenges of turning blogs and articles into a book?
The chronology was a challenge. Every blog entry was written in the moment. “Today, this happened…” So when you flow that all together it just sounds ridiculous, like all this shit happened in one day. Like no. And a lot of the stories just weren’t worthy of a book. When I’m blogging, most of the time I’m just trying to entertain you, sharing meaningless drivel to get a few laughs. But with the book, only the stories with meaning made the cut. Some of them just needed a little TLC to qualify. Others got the axe. About half the book is completely new material, so don’t bother going to my website and getting the book for free. The biggest challenge, of course, was finding the time and the courage to do it. I knew if I was going to do this, it had to be pure, 100%, potty-mouthed me. And I done did it.
Will we see more books from you?
I hope so. This one seems to be selling like hot cakes, so I probably won’t be able to resist. I have some ideas. But I need a break for now. The beauty of it is – I am not writing fiction, I’m just writing my life, in my voice, so it just pours out of me, which is kind of – dare I say it – easy. (I’ll regret this when my sequel is launched on my 80th birthday.)
What are some of your favourite reads?
Caitlin Moran’s “How to Be a Woman” seriously changed my life. And any book that’s funny. I respect drama and suspense and all that, but nothing compares to a book that makes me laugh. A couple years ago, on vacation with my friend Kim, I read Jonathan Tropper’s “This is Where I leave You.” I kept laughing out loud and Kim kept looking at me with envy as she held her copy of “Broken Wings”. I also can’t talk about my favourite reads without mentioning Jim Combden’s “Fogo Island Boy”. It wasn’t perfect by any means. Dad wrote it while battling cancer and I edited it in the birthing suite, for Christ’s sake. But I am so happy Dad got to experience that. He died just a couple months after it was published.